5 April 2002

Welsh minister is shown blueprint for regeneration

THE Welsh Assembly is being urged to use a successful scheme involving 22 Powys farmers as a blueprint for rural regeneration.

When rural affairs minister Carwyn Jones visited four of the new businesses established by members of Montgomeryshire Rural Enterprise, he heard that pump-priming grants were vital.

Assembly member Mick Bates, who also farms in the area, set up the community project that evolved into the self-help group. He told Mr Jones that most of the new enterprises would not have started without a share of £800,000 of funding from Brussels and Cardiff.

This matches investments by individual farmers, and the on-farm developments are now generating the extra income needed to keep family farms in business.

Mr Bates said: "By forming a company and making a joint bid for aid on projects requiring £1.4m of investment, the members were relieved of the bureaucracy involved. They support each other and are now working together on marketing.

"The Assembly should encourage the creation of other groups like this."

At Pen y Bryn, Castle Caereinion, leading Texel breeder Steve Smith said it was increasingly difficult to get a fair reward for the effort needed to run 1200 ewes and 60 suckler cows.

"The grant let us to turn a dilapidated building into two self-catering cottages, which will allow us to run hawking courses on the farm," Mr Smith told the minister.

Visitors will also be encouraged to use enterprises set up by other group members, such as horse riding, quad bike trekking, fishing, laser shooting and a cookery school.